Following up a story I wrote about earlier this month, the Associated Press reports that Washington State officials “are revoking the operating license of a Washington retirement facility after an 88-year-old woman froze to death in its courtyard earlier this month.”
In the weeks since the incident new details have emerged regarding this tragedy, none of which reflect well on the retirement home and care center and all of which reinforce the idea that what happened may qualify, legally speaking, as a wrongful death under Washington law. This terrible state of affairs is made worse by the emotional harm to the victim’s family the retirement home reportedly caused by issuing misleading information to them in the hours after the woman’s body was discovered (the family was initially told only that she died of a heart attack and the role of exposure in her death was not mentioned, according to the reports cited in my earlier post).
We now know, according to AP, that the victim’s body “was found in an enclosed, open-air courtyard after staff missed a required hourly bed check at midnight. The news agency cites officials from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services saying that “staff mistakes and ineffective security measures… are to blame” for the death. With its license now revoked the center “can continue to care for its current 57 residents while an appeal takes place, but it can’t accept new patients,” AP reports. It adds: “officials said some safety hazards remained uncorrected three days after” the woman died.
As I wrote in my earlier post, the real lesson here is how crucial it is for retirement homes, caregivers and others who assume responsibilities for our elderly loved ones to take this charge as seriously as we expect them to. Most people place an aging relative in a home only reluctantly, but they do so with an expectation that health and safety measures will be strictly enforced: that the facility will be clean and hygienic, that the food will be wholesome and appropriate to the patients’ medical needs and, most importantly, that proper security will be enforced, both to keep those who would cause harm out and to prevent those inside from accidently doing harm to themselves.
As a Washington and Oregon wrongful death lawyer with experience in cases involving nursing homes these are issues I see far too frequently. The only solace comes from knowing that our court system is here to help fight against abuse and to offer an additional layer of protection to those we love.
AP via The Oregonian: Longview care center’s license revoked after resident freezes to death